Doctor of Leadership in Global Perspectives: Crafting Ministry in an Interconnected World

Leaders are Made, Not Born

Written by: on March 19, 2023

Other than playing sports and rolling my eyes at the person trying to make the class behave for the substitute teacher, I am not sure when I understood the necessity of leadership. No doubt I had lots of experiences of leading and being a follower, I do remember the first time that leadership was a concept and something to aspire to. This occurred during the summer of my junior year in high school when I attended a leadership camp with the theme, “Leaders are made not born.” I fashion myself an artist, so I volunteered to create the banner for our cabin. I put my comic book inspired perspective to use drawing a Frankenstein monster being made into a leader by inserting a heart. I had no idea how prescient that image was.

What makes a good leader? Or, more to the point, am I a good leader? No doubt we have all experienced a variety of leaders and leadership styles. From the dominating, dictator to the passive, self-conscious leader that everyone runs over. It almost seems that we have a sixth-sense that can tell us the kind of leader we are dealing with, even if we did not know how to describe it. While there are many different types of leaders, I am drawn to the definition of a leader as one who has the courage to lead in difficult situations. 

Leadership Defined

That is what makes Peter G. Northouse’s book, Leadership: Theory and Practice, a true classic. It is a ubiquitous resource on leadership theory and practice. Northouse gives a comprehensive explanation of leadership that accounts of the nuances of our experience, even observing that leadership is as varied as the people that have led.[1] Even with the various ways people can lead, Northouse observes that there are four components to leadership: process, influence, people, and alignment around goals.[2] These components inform his definition of leaders which is, “Leadership is a process whereby an individual influences a group of individuals to achieve a common goal.”[3]  What is particularly interesting about this definition is that it give preference to the process of leadership rather than characteristics that are common associated with a leader, which Northouse labels “traits.”[4]. That means that while leaders may be born, they can also be made as the leader learns the behaviors necessary to lead.[5]


Adaptive Leadership

As Northouse outlines the behaviors of leaders, he describes the main types of leadership styles, such as authentic leadership, servant leadership and inclusive leadership.[6] No doubt it takes courage to be a leader, yet the adaptive style of leadership reminds me of that image at leadership camp of inserting a courageous heart into the leader. Northouse describes the adaptive leader as one who, “challenges others to face difficult situations, providing them with the space or opportunity they need to learn new ways of dealing with the inevitable changes in beliefs, attitudes, perceptions, and behaviors that they are likely to encounter in addressing real problems.”[7] This type of leadership gives the picture of being a steady presence as the followers work through the challenge of changing. The leader has to have the courage not to be drawn in to the problem while the person or organizations works toward the change. That type of leadership takes courage. 

This is the type of leadership that seems to be called for the past few years. Whether it was navigating a global pandemic, racial tensions and the collision of political and social ideologies, being a leader in these times is not for the faint of heart. Yet I wonder if every age has its tensions in life and culture? Simply, being a leader that engages with those who will follow must be attended to the change taking place within the individual and the organization. Northouse describes this approach well when he says, “adaptive leadership is unique in how it directs authority to help followers deal with conflicting values that emerge in changing organizational environments.”[8]. 


What makes a good leader? Northouse gives a good basis for answering the question: a good leader is a person who enters the process of leadership. That kind of leader has the heart to step into difficult situations to lead toward a better outcome. This type of leader is not born, but is developed by stepping into the leadership journey and growing along the way. It is a journey that we are all on if we choose to enter the process. 

  1. Northouse, Peter Guy. Leadership: Theory and Practice. 9th ed. Thousand Oaks: Sage Publishing, 2021, 2. 
  2. Ibid., 6. 
  3. Ibid. 
  4. Ibid., 8. 
  5. Ibid. 
  6. Ibid., 221-252, 253-284, 322-351. 
  7. Ibid., 285. 
  8. Ibid., 303. 

About the Author


Chad McSwain

Chad is a systematic creative serving in pastoral ministry for nearly 20 years, Chad is a professional question-asker and white-board enthusiast, who enjoys helping people discover their own passions and purpose. A life-long learner, he has a B.A, Philosophy - Univ. Central Oklahoma, M.A Theology - Fuller Seminary, M.Div. Perkins School of Theology at SMU and is pursuing a Doctor of Leadership - George Fox University. He is an ordained Elder in the United Methodist Church, currently serving as Lead Pastor of Whitesboro UMC. Chad and his wife, Brandi live in Prosper, Texas along with their three children, two pugs and a chameleon.

8 responses to “Leaders are Made, Not Born”

  1. Kristy Newport says:

    This is awesome! Id love to see this, Chad the cartoonist:
    “drawing a Frankenstein monster being made into a leader by inserting a heart”

    I like how you put this:
    “The leader has to have the courage not to be drawn in to the problem while the person or organizations works toward the change.” Do you have an example of when you may have wanted to be drawn into the problem but resisted that pull but steady worked toward change?
    You conclude with:
    A leader in someone who chooses to enter the process.
    Has there ever been a time when you have not wanted to “enter into” the call of leadership? In other words…when has it been uncomfortable wearing the leadership hat?

    Great Blog! I wish we could exchange notes on Adaptive Leadership one day. I’m enjoying that text too!

  2. Tonette Kellett says:


    I loved picturing you as a teen cartoonist! I know you did a fabulous job. What drew you to adaptive leadership of the models of leadership above all the others? There were so many to choose from! And did you do any of the self-assessments? Great post!

  3. I enjoyed reading your excellent summary of Northouse, Chad! I’m curious if you identified with any particular leadership model over the others?

  4. Chad,
    I appreciated your post, especially as you gently invited the reader into your topic. Well done!

  5. Alana Hayes says:

    Can we hire you to make a logo (cartoon) for our group!??

    What challenges does adaptive leadership face in a fast-changing world? (Just name 1 that resonates with you…) How can adaptive leadership help address these challenges as well as equip followers to navigate this transformation and change of pace? If you are not naturally an adaptive leader what is the best resource that you have found so far to help aide in making that transformation?

    Sorry for all the questions! Great Post!

  6. mm Audrey Robinson says:

    like some of the others have already mentioned – I’d love to see your cartoonist drawings.

    Your statement that we have a sixth sense to know what kind of leader we are dealing with captured what I was attempting to say in my post – you will know it when you see it.

    Curious to know if you have identified the type of leadership or traits that works best for you to follow.

  7. Kristy Newport says:

    Great post!
    I am rereading this as I am doing my research for my syntopical essay.

  8. Chad,

    I was excited to read you take on adaptive leadership and leading through change. This is an area I am trying to grow in and it is certainly the context that churches are trying to navigate.

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